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Brick Walls

DNA Project


Michael S. Cole, M.D.


All evidence now indicates that William J. TUMA of 1900 Valley County, Nebraska, was the same person as William J. COLEMAN of 1910 Geneva County, Nebraska, and 1920 Bonneville County, Idaho, who was the same person as William J. COLE, who married in 1933 in Boone County, Arkansas. While we were uncovering new evidence for his life between 1900 and 1933, we could only speculate about when/where/why he changed his surname twice and why he created a bogus past. We have many unanswered questions. Each theory considered here is full of holes. It is not my intention to demean my grandfather. We owe our very existence to our grandparents, and they are worthy of our respect.

Why Did William Change His Name From TUMA to COLEMAN to COLE?

  • Perhaps he wished to avoid an association with his Germanic origins during the first World War with Germany. His writings indicate a strong political inclination and he may have thought having a German-sounding name would impair his chances for election. (This theory has been rejected since I discovered that he was using COLEMAN before 1910, well before the start of World War I.)

  • Perhaps he had a falling out with his family and wanted to fade into oblivion, severing all ties to his parents and siblings. If this were the case, then his alleged political activities would seem to bring attention to himself, making it easier for his relatives to find him. (We have learned that his father was impossible to get along with, but this would not explain why he would hide from the rest of the family. There is evidence that his first wife, Inez PARKHURST, did not completely cut herself off from the PARKHURST clan after the surname was changed to COLEMAN.)

  • Perhaps he deserted his first wife and refused to provide support for their children, hoping by changing his name and moving to another state he would be undetected by the legal authorities. Or perhaps after he left his first wife, he wished to escape from unhappy memories. (This may actually be part of the reason for the change from COLEMAN to COLE, but he started using COLE several years before he left California.)

  • Perhaps he was involved in some major crime. Fleeing to another state and changing his name could be an attempt to avoid punishment.

  • Perhaps he incurred bad debts which he felt he could never repay. He was frequently buying property, building houses, and selling at a profit. It's possible that at some point he got in over his head and was unable to repay the bank (or investors).

  • Perhaps he worked for the FBI or other government agency and became involved in something that endangered his life. Changing his name and moving to another state could have been the logical thing to do. However, if this had occurred, why would he get involved in public activities which would call attention to himself? Why would he freely admit that his name had been TUMA? Why would he maintain contact with unicameral proponents? [A form letter dated 22 April 1999 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding William John COLE, stated, "Please be advised that records which appear to be responsive to your Freedom of Information-Privacy Acts (FOIPA) request have been destroyed."]

Why Did William TUMA-COLE Fabricate His Background and Ancestry?

  • Perhaps he thought his political ambitions could be realized more easily if he created a chain of American ancestors who had given patriotic service to the nation and their communities. However, should such deception become exposed during a bid for public office, his political chances would surely have been permanently destroyed.

  • Perhaps in his early letters to my grandmother, William exaggerated his past accomplishments to impress a woman whom he thought initially he would never meet. [Sounds like an online romance today.] Later, as it became apparent that a romantic relationship was developing, William may have had to concoct details of his life that fit with the claims in his earlier letters. [I find it amazing that there seem to be no contradictions in anything we have that he wrote after marrying my grandmother.]

  • Perhaps William J. COLE did not wish to admit that William J. TUMA was born the same year as his mother-in-law.

  • Perhaps he discovered or believed he was adopted or illegitimate, never could determine his parentage, but just wanted his descendants to feel they came from a meaningful lineage. (Why did he give John TUMA and Katie SVOBODA as his parents' names when he married at age 23, unless he truly believed they were his natural parents?) [Did he think none of his descendants would ever seek more details? He could never have imagined that DNA testing would become available and prove our connection to the TUMA and SVOBODA clans.]

  • Perhaps he wanted a prominent English heritage to fit in with his peer group.

  • Perhaps William J. TUMA died and William J. COLE assumed his identity. (Current evidence is abundant that this wasn't the case.)

For what other reasons do people change their names and fabricate a different personal history?

Though I may be blinded by family ties, I still believe William COLE was an honorable man in his later years. My desire has always been to determine the TRUTH.

Regardless of the truth, I will continue to pursue William John COLE's ancestry for the pleasure of extending my paternal family tree and sharing the discoveries with relatives.

Check out the list of all known descendants of my great-grandfather John TUMA as of 2002.

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